US President Donald Trump has warned North Korea it “Gotta behave”, a day after its failed missile test.
It came after his vice-president Mike Pence visited the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) to warn America’s “era of strategic patience is over”.
North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador, meanwhile, accused the United States of turning the Korean peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment”.
Mr Pence’s visit to the tense DMZ dividing North and South Korea came at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia and underscored US commitment. It allowed the vice-president to gaze at North Korean soldiers afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire.
As the bomber jacket-clad vice-president was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor.
Mr Pence told reporters Mr Trump is hopeful China would use its “extraordinary levers” to pressure the North to abandon its weapons programme, a day after the North’s failed missile test launch.
But Mr Pence expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the North to move towards ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, he said a period of patience had followed.
“But the era of strategic patience is over,” he declared. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change.
“We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”
Mr Trump himself appeared to reinforce the message at the White House, replying “Gotta behave” when a reporter asked what message he had for North Korean leader Kin Jong Un.
In New York, the North’s deputy UN ambassador Kim In Ryong said US-South Korean military exercises being staged now are the largest-ever “aggressive war drill”. He said his country “is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US”.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he hopes there would be “no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the US will follow the line that president Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign”.
China made a plea for a return to negotiations,with Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang saying tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution.
Mr Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested US plans to deploy a missile defence system in South Korea are damaging its relations with China.
Later on Monday, Mr Pence reiterated in a joint statement alongside South Korean acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn that “all options are on the table” and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with “an overwhelming and effective response”. He said the American commitment to South Korea is “iron-clad and immutable”.
Noting Mr Trump’s recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan, Mr Pence said: “North Korea would do well not to test his resolve.”